Silver Age

Well, that’s that; the Sherlock story is finished. I have turned in my author bio, an author’s note to go along with the story, and now just have to wait for the rest of the process to be completed. Over all, other than my initial stress over whether I could actually write a Sherlockian tale and my usual self-doubt that always comes up whenever I write anything, it was an overall terrific experience, and in fact, might even try my hand at another Sherlock story set in that same world–pre-World War I New Orleans. It really was quite fun, and I am even now thinking that perhaps more Sherlockian style stories could work very well in my Monsters of New Orleans collection I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time now.

Things to ponder. But often when something goes really well for me I tend to dip into the well again, with unpleasant and/or disappointing results. Perhaps it’s best to just take the win and be done with it.

Facebook memories showed me the cover of Murder in the Rue Dauphine (or rather, the original cover; it’s had three) yesterday along with my post that the book was 15 years old at the time of the cover posting. It rather staggered me to realize that my first novel would now be able to vote, were it an actual person…and I actually started writing the book in 1998; which is twenty-two years ago. That’s kind of staggering–and yet another reminder that yes, Greg, you’re old.

I’m already worn out and it’s only Tuesday, which certainly doesn’t bode week, does it? Heavy sigh. We’re still watching The Club, which only has two episodes left–we’ll undoubtedly finish that tonight and then get caught up on Perry Mason, leaving the decision of what to watch next till Wednesday night–and I’m kind of hopeful that today will be a better, less draining day than yesterday was; hope does, as I often say, spring eternal. The heat and humidity, missing over the weekend, also returned with a bit of a vengeance yesterday–which could have been a significant part of the feeling drained last night. We’re still in a flash flood watch until 7 pm tonight, so maybe it’ll rain a lot and cool things down briefly again. We did have rain yesterday, but it didn’t seem that bad at the office–which is not, as anyone who lives here knows, an indicator of how the rain is going in the rest of the city. It could be raining at the office and the sun shining at the Lost Apartment, for example.

I need to find the time and energy to write, quite frankly. I think part of my malaise in life–and why my temper is so short lately–has everything to do with not having the time or energy to write more. The only joy I’ve had in the last few weeks has been the editorial notes on “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” and the overwhelmingly positive response from the editor to “Night Follows Night.” Writing is my happiness, really, even when it’s frustrating and going well; when I’m writing I am happy, usually–and happier when it’s going badly than I am when I am not writing. Whenever I am having a bad day–as yesterday was–whenever I am tired and angry and drained, what I really need to do is open something I’m writing that isn’t finished and work on it. It will always calm me, take me out of the bad mood, and put me back into a better place. My creativity needs an outlet, and when I deny that outlet and keep it inside of me, my moods and everything else always seem to suffer for it.

So, with that in mind, as I head into the spice mines for today, here are the opening paragraphs of my first-ever Sherlock pastiche.

In those first few years during which I shared the upper floors at 821 B Royal Street with Mr Sherlock Holmes, it was my custom to rise early in the mornings and take a walk on the earthen levee containing the mighty river. Holmes was by habit a late riser, rarely springing out of bed before the noon-time whistle rang along the waterfront, but taking such exercise was good for the damage to my leg caused by the wound – a souvenir of the Spanish War.

I enjoyed those quiet, early mornings, watching the ships sailing up the river to the docks from foreign ports, and the barges floating down the currents from points as far north as Cincinnati, St. Louis and Memphis, all while I strolled with my walking stick along the levee. Seeing the large bales of cotton being unloaded as the morning mists arose from the dark muddy water, the unloading of crates of coffee and bananas from the central American republics, I marveled each morning at the hubbub of activity that created and maintained this most curious of American cities, rising from the swamps like something from a forgotten myth.

After, I would adjourn to my favorite café, the Aquitaine, mere blocks from my home, where I would read the morning papers while enjoying coffee and Italian pastries.

This particular morning in early December, I cut my morning walk short. The temperature had dropped most precipitously overnight, and I had not chosen a heavy enough jacket. My leg ached terribly from the damp and the cold, and I limped along the banquettes to the café. My usual table was in the back, away from the hustle and bustle and smells of Royal Street. In those days, the French Quarter stank to high heaven, malignant odors hanging in the thick wet air from breweries and sugar refineries and, of course, seafood. Holmes often burned heavily scented candles in the various rooms of our apartments, particularly the parlor whose windows opened out onto our third-floor balcony facing Royal Street.

Sail Away

So I went ahead and sent out three stories on submission yesterday; “This Thing of Darkness,” “Night Follows Night”, and the Sherlock story. Will any of them actually be accepted? Who knows, but that’s all part and parcel of the joy of being a writer who likes to write short stories despite being rarely asked to write them. I have like 86 short stories in some form of progress now, but it felt really good to write finis on these and sent them out. If they are rejected, oh well; I’ll just save them for my next short story collection.

See how that works? Staying positive is always a plus, you know?

And last night before I went to bed I checked the Pandora’s Box known more commonly as my email inbox to discover a delightful email from the editor of the Sherlock anthology that she loves the new edition of the story and is sending me a contract! How absolutely delightful. I am glad “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” will see print, and as always, it’s lovely to get that kind of affirmation. It’s also a period piece, which was just as daunting as writing a Holmes story set in New Orleans–the only rule for the anthology was that it couldn’t be set in London, and Holmes and Watson couldn’t be English. So I made Holmes a Louisianan–and we never are quite sure where Watson is from. But it was great fun, challenging, and very, as I said, daunting. While I’ve read the Holmes stories–and the Nicholas Meyer novels, and other stories written by modern day Sherlockians (notably, Lyndsay Faye and Laurie King), I don’t think of myself as an avid Sherlockian. Even now, I cannot think of the plot of either A Scandal in Bohemia or The Red-headed League.

So, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain I could write such a story that would be worthy of publication, but it was a challenge–and I do enjoy challenges. I like pushing myself as a writer, trying something different, seeing if I can continue to grow as a writer. (But just between you and me, the only reason I even thought I could possibly do this was because it was specified not to be canon–no London, not the late nineteenth century, no need for continuity. No, this was a way I could write a Sherlock story and make it entirely my own as well. And of course, setting it in 1916 was also a bit of a challenge for me as well; I’ve never done much period/historical writing, and since I knew, once the title came to me, that Storyville had to be involved (how else could one write “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” and not involve Storyville?), which presented a host of other issues. Fortunately, I’ve been reading lots of New Orleans history lately, and one of the books was about Storyville: Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin (highly recommended, by the way), and in a short story I wouldn’t have to have the ongoing detail a novel would require, so I thought, fuck it, let’s give it a shot.

I was also able to use one of the locations I often use in Scotty books, the Hotel Aquitaine, which made it even more fun for me.

So, apparently, the thinking positive thing might actually work. How lovely!

Also, yesterday I (the ever-present resident Luddite) managed to figure out how to go back and read the chat from the Queer Noir at the Bar reading on Friday night–I kept accidentally closing it, and when I was reading I never looked at it–and wow. Everyone was so gracious and kind about my reading! I’m glad, though, that I wasn’t reading the chat while I was reading because it would have freaked me out. Thank you all for being so kind.

I also started reading Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, and as I read, I began to remember why I hesitated to read it. Being from the South, and from a particularly poor part of the South, I sometimes have trouble reading about that world; because of the memories it brings back, and while Ford’s prose is magnificently beautiful, she also brought me right into a world I know so well–a world I’ve been trying to shake off my entire life. There’s probably something to be said, or perhaps written, about my struggle with where I am from; the deep pride instilled in me my entire childhood about being Southern and the defensiveness that automatically arises whenever someone else is critical of (what I still think of) as home; and how that pride also runs concurrent with a river of shame–two rivers, running parallel, a kind of Tigris and Euphrates within my soul, my psyche, my being. I’ve started and never finished any number of stories and novels set in Alabama; my files run over with them. Bury Me in Shadows is the first manuscript set in Alabama I’ve ever finished a full draft of (there are a couple of short stories I’ve finished; Dark Tide is also set in Alabama but down in a little town on Mobile Bay–which isn’t quite the same thing), and I have yet to complete it enough to turn it into my publisher. Reading Kelly’s book takes me to the same places Daniel Woodrell’s work takes me, or Ace Atkins’ The Ranger series…that inner conflict, that inability to decide, that pride of place and where I come from coupled with shame. I could see it all so clearly in my head as I read that first chapter…she may have been writing about rural Arkansas but it could have been rural Alabama. It’s real, it’s vivid, and it’s beautiful.

The rural south is savage in its beauty.

My whole life has really been about dualities; being Southern but not growing up there; closeted self v. authentic self; being a writer but also always having some other job for whatever reason. My identity has always been sort of splintered; it’s probably why I am so constantly down on myself because I never really feel whole, or like I fit in somewhere–because I’ve been outside my entire life.

And, I have found few things trigger me to dark emotion–anger or depression–than being reminded that I am an outsider.

We started watching Perry Mason, and we’re enjoying it–but it’s really not Perry Mason. It’s something entirely else, with the characters given the same names as the ones Erle Stanley Gardner used. The cast is fantastic, and it’s a terrific noir series (if a bit reminiscent of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels–which we stopped watching, for reasons that are not pertinent here), so we will keep watching–but, it’s not really the same show or characters.

And it makes me want to reread one of the originals again.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

Two Divided by Zero

My COVID test came back negative again, so I was right, I guess; dehydration and exhaustion combined in a 1-2 punch to send me reeling and off my game. My stomach is still messed up–sometimes stuff doesn’t go right through me, but most of the time it absolutely does–but that’s just how it is and we have to get on with life somehow. I am really sick of this, and I am going to be calling my doctor’s office later today. My doctor moved away, and I’ve been delaying dealing with contacting their office to get a new one, so now I guess I am in a position where I have to–in other words, moved to action because I have no other choice.

That happens a lot more than one might think, since my usual default is lethargy.

I revised my Sherlock story yesterday, so yes, I actually did get some writing done, and it wasn’t as easy as I might have liked but on the other hand, it also could have been much harder. There were a couple of times I was ready to throw in the towel and say hey I got something done at least, but forced myself to keep going. Now I’m going to let it sit for a few days before I polish it, and hopefully in the meantime i can get some other writing done. I know part of the weird emotional state I find myself in these days has more to do with the not writing than anything else; when I am not working on some form of writing, I’m always down. After I finished working on the story yesterday I felt fantastic; that adrenaline rush only matched by the one that comes from endorphins after a good workout. I’ve not been to the gym in over a week, either–I’ve neither had the energy nor felt well enough to actually go, plus not wanting to put people at risk…but I am going to have to start thinking about when I can go back again.

As a result of remembering a story I’d started a few weeks ago and completely forgotten about, I decided to make a list of all the stories and things I have in progress at the current time. It was quite eye-opening; eighty nine short stories in some degree of completion; seven novellas in the same situation; and two novels. This is what I mean by my creative ADHD; many of the stories are no more than 500 words (I made a point of not counting the ones that are just a title and an opening sentence or paragraph) but some of them have been through multiple drafts and still others have a first draft completed. I posted about it on social media, and based on the reactions I received, I realized two things: one, that I now understand why people call me prolific and two, the reason I think I am lazy and don’t ever get anything done is precisely because I have so many works in progress that are not completed. Add to that the reality that I constantly get new ideas for stories, novellas, and novels all the time, and you begin to see why I am so rough on myself when it comes to this sort of thing. I am trying to be better about being hard on myself–there’s a strong sense, though, that without being hard on myself I wouldn’t get as much done; but at the same time, I’m not getting much done these days…but I think this shift is necessary in order to delete negativity out of my life. There’s already so much negativity in the world I don’t need to create more for my life and career. But I need to get moving on the Secret Project, and now that this revision is behind me, I have some time to work on it now.

We finished season one of Elite last night and started season two, and I have to say–if you’ve not watched this show, you absolutely must. The story moves like a runaway freight train, the plot is incredibly intricate, intertwined, and complicated. The writing is stellar and the acting–the gorgeous young actors who make up the cast–is also topnotch. It’s so much better than 13 Reasons Why, and its approach to alternate sexualities is much better–considering this is a Spanish show, and I’ve always considered Spain to be conservative and Catholic, again shows how wrong you can be when you make assumptions about values and beliefs. It’s even hard to encapsulate the ongoing storylines on the show because so much happens and it moves so fast. It’s less like Edge of Night in terms of crime/soap hybrids than it is a Spanish, prep school version of How to Get Away With Murder–which we never finished watching the final season of, because it’s plot is so complicated we lost track and literally had no idea what was going on anymore.

And on that note, time to get back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, one and all.

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In case you’ve been wondering, Constant Reader, my blog titles are usually song titles; back when I first started doing that, I just used whatever song was playing on the stereo or my iPod (remember those?) when I started writing the entry. I’ve tried not to use the same title twice, but after fifteen years or so it’s kind of hard not to. I started using the Top 100 lists from certain years, but those got exhausted after a few years, and now I’ve moved on to singles by the Pet Shop Boys….many of their titles are awesome and wry and witty; today’s, I am not so sure about, hence my decision to explain.

It’s been a very exhausting week, and I am bone tired. I’ve not been to the gym this week at all; I will assess how I feel tomorrow about going; I can certainly, in a worst case, go on Saturday. There’s a tropical storm out in the Gulf heading our way, the country has seemingly gone mad, and sometimes I just feel so completely overwhelmed I don’t even want to get out of bed, let alone check social media or my emails.

But I persist.

Today wasn’t quite so bad as I feared when I started writing this post this morning; it was actually rather pleasant. The sad thing is I am starting to adjust physically to the heat and humidity; they did get us an enormous fan and a couple of smaller ones–but when I had to go into the building to do my timesheet and send my activity log to my supervisor I thought it was freezing inside the building–and had the same experience when I stopped at the grocery store. Naturally, the first floor of the Lost Apartment and my kitchen/office is miserable, even with the ceiling fans on, but I ordered two of those small, portable Arctic air conditioners–a co-worker highly recommended them–and when they arrive, we’ll see how they work.

I do think I am going to be able to sleep tonight. I am feeling sleepy–my mind is still going strong though–but I guess we will see. We started watching a show called London Kills on Acorn, and are enjoying it–we gave up on Dead Still after two episodes because it was, while very well acted and produced, kind of slow and not as interesting or engaging as I would have hoped.

Well, it’s now Friday morning and I’ve actually skipped a blog day. Shortly after I wrote the above I got so sleepy I barely managed to make it upstairs and into bed before sleepwalking, seriously, and I slept very well last night. I could have stayed in bed easily for another hour or so, but I have things to do and work to get to and so forth. But it feels absolutely lovely to have rested–perhaps tonight I will rest again–and maybe I can make some progress on work i have to do.

I got some glorious short story feedback on a submission I’d sent out, and am really looking forward to revising it. This is “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” for those of you keeping track; the Sherlock story which was very far outside my comfort zone. I do think the notes I got will make it a much better, and stronger, story; and I am going to trust my instincts–as I read the notes, ideas began to form in my head on how to make this story stronger and better, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

And on that note, with the Gulf Coast now under a hurricane warning, I shall head back into the spice mines.

It Always Comes as a Surprise

Yesterday was unusual in that it was a Saturday where I actually had to interact with the outside world more than I usually do on a given Saturday: I had a business conference call at noon, and then last night I did a live reading and discussion of my story for The Faking of the President, edited by Peter Carlaftes and the event was in conjunction with the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, California. Also reading were Abby L. Vandiver, Alison Gaylin, and Kate Flora. It was very interesting and fun, and my story, of course, is “The Dreadful Scott Decision.” I didn’t spend much time writing yesterday, but I do think I solved some of my computer issues with the desktop; at least it is working fine for now and not making me want to smash it into little pieces with a hammer. We shall see how it goes from now on, however; I reserve the right to lose my temper over it wasting enormous amounts of my time going forward.

It was fun talking about presidents, and history, and my story last evening. The story was fun to write, once I figured out what I was going to write about and how to frame the story. As I have said repeatedly, short stories are difficult for me to write, and I think part of the reason I enjoy them so much–both writing and reading–is because they are a challenge for me; plus, I can explore something–style, character, voice, etc.–vastly different from what I usually do, which I think also helps me become a better writer. I will always accept an invitation to write for an anthology or a magazine or something to challenge myself. The Sherlock Holmes story was a challenge for me–I still don’t know if they are going to use  it, or if it’s going to come back to me all marked up with lots of revision requested, or it’s going to be passed on–but once I got into the rhythm of the voice and the period, it was kind of a fun challenge. I’ve even thought about writing another one, which is really crazy when you think about it. I have never been a Sherlockian, although I’ve always appreciated the character and the importance of the stories to the history of crime fiction–seriously, where would any of us be without Holmes?–but it’s not like I’ve joined any fan groups, or have considered writing pastiches before…I certainly wouldn’t have written this one had I not been asked–and I do think it could be fun to write other Holmes stories set in that pre-American participation in WWI period, from say around 1912-1917, and maybe even beyond. It could, for example, be a lot of fun to write a story around German espionage in New Orleans, and it’s a very interesting time in New Orleans history. Maybe “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” could turn into the start of a whole new direction for me. Who knows? That’s the fun thing about short stories–you’re never sure where writing one might wind up leading you.

But I have my entire day free today, and I am going to shortly adjourn to my easy chair to drink more coffee and read more of The Red Carnelian before I buckle down to my own writing. I am hoping to get a lot of progress on the Secret Project done today, and maybe some work on one of my short stories, perhaps even one of the novellas. I just realized next weekend is actually a three-day weekend–where has May gone already?–and so I should also be able to get a shit ton done next weekend….or at least, so one might think.

Paul and I also started watching The Great on Hulu last night, with Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great. It’s a sort of based on the real story, but a lot liberties are taken with actual history (for one example, Catherine’s husband was not the son of Peter the Great but his grandson; his aunt Elizabeth was actually the empress and selected Catherine as his wife for him–and he didn’t rule for long after Elizabeth died before Catherine usurped his throne. However, the time between Catherine’s arrival in Russia and her seizure of the throne was about twenty years or so; she was no longer a young woman when she became empress–but you can’t spread this story out over twenty years or the series wouldn’t be very interesting.

I also like that they admit up front they are taking liberties; as opposed to The Tudors or The White Queen, which also did but didn’t admit it. It’s also written by the same guy who wrote The Favourite, and the entire show has a similar feel to that movie.

And now, tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–I know I intend to!

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Building a Wall

Friday! Friday! Friday!

HUZZAH!

I also submitted my story “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” off to the editor yesterday morning; it was quite a lovely thing to do, and now of course I intend, as I always do, to forget all about it and get on with my life. I spent part of last evening revising another story to submit today–I doubt very seriously it’ll get taken, but nothing ventured, nothing gained–and am looking forward to getting on with some other things this weekend. I need to get some serious work done on the Secret Project, which I haven’t touched since before the pandemic, and God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’d like to get that finished this weekend, along with the revision of my story “Night Follows Night.” Ideally, I’d love to have a story in the submission process with the four publications I aim for–Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, and Mystery Tribune–at all times. I just am not sure that I have enough completed stories to keep that going; but if I can get “Night Follows Night” revised this weekend, and then I can move on to another story next week, and so on…by the end of May I’ll have something at each publication, and who knows? Perhaps I might get lucky.

I also need to get back to Bury Me in Shadows at some point; now that I know how to revise the damned thing and make the story work, I’ve been itching to get my hands back on it. I think I may even start rereading the manuscript as it is this weekend; making some notes so I don’t forget all the things I need to do to make it work.

The Edgars were presented on-line yesterday, announced on Twitter, and it went very well–congratulations to everyone, from the judges to the finalists to the winners, for all their hard work–and I realized last night, looking through my mentions, wow, I actually had fun on Twitter yesterday! How fucking crazy is that? Pretty crazy, indeed; but it was an exciting mix of writers and books and styles, and I am really sorry we didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate everyone and everything in person. I hate that people didn’t get their chance to be celebrated at a really nice black-tie event, and obviously, nothing we can do on-line could replicate the excitement of the night, with the champagne and being with everyone…but it was still really nice.

Now if only I can find the time to get today’s story finished and polished and turned in by this evening, that would be terrific.

We finished watching The Plot Against America last night with a two episode binge, and it’s really quite well done and quite disturbing; there were several times throughout the series where it crossed my mind that hmm, this is really making me uncomfortable, maybe we should stop watching–but that was the entire point of the show, and the book, to begin with; to see the parallels today and be made to feel uncomfortable. Chernobyl was very much the same way, and sometimes that’s the role of art and entertainment; to make the viewer uncomfortable with accurate reflection of inhumanity and how it becomes possible–how easily it becomes possible.

No one wants to believe how easy it is for people to go to the dark side, or at the very least, to be complicit.

And I am looking forward to this weekend. I really am. Yes, I need to run to the grocery store and yes, the weekend is rarely, if ever, long enough; but I am very happy that I made it through yet another week and managed to get a lot done.

Sometimes that’s all you can hope for, really.

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Two More Bottles of Wine

The weather, apparently, is going to be terrifying today.

I’d planned to run errands, but with the terrible forecast I think it’s best if I stay at home today and ride out the stormy weather. Hail? Flash flooding? Tornadoes? YIKES! And it does look foul out there outside my windows–an eerie gray light and pouring rain, grayish-dark clouds covering the sky. The gutter that drains the back and side yards, running alongside the walk, is full and overflowing; but water isn’t cascading off the house and through the drain pipes. So, yeah, probably best not to go outside.

Okay, that thunder was loud and long. Definitely not going anywhere today.

It’s okay, though; I have plenty to keep me occupied. There’s lots of writing to be done and laundry to put through its cleansing paces; I have reading to do and some other things I have to get taken care of over the course of this lovely time away from the office. I’m starting to get busier, which means I need to guard my time more jealously, budget it accordingly, and perhaps most exciting of all, start keeping lists again.

That gives me such a charge, you have no idea.

I am one of those sick and twisted individuals who gets more done the more he has to do; the luxury of free time lends itself to more leisure, I find–as well as a reluctance to leave the inertia behind. I had a lovely time last weekend, listening to music all day Saturday while doing some important catching up on lo those many things I always tend to let slide and keep on sliding; a body at rest tends to stay at rest–and there’s nothing I love more than proving just how true that axiom actually is. It’s amazing–even this morning, I woke up just before eight but the bed was so comfortable and warm and relaxing, I didn’t want to get out of it. Scooter climbed up on me shortly afterwards and fell asleep while purring, and of course that put me right back to sleep. But I am awake now, not groggy in the least, and confident that now that my body is in motion it will stay in motion. Huzzah!

I continue to read Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and we are now up to the 1950’s. I’m really enjoying my sojourns into New Orleans’ past; these histories are helping me get a better understanding of my home city, which I love more than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. It’s hard to explain sometimes to people, but New Orleans is home more than anywhere; I just have always felt welcomed and a part of the city’s fabric, connected in a way I never did anywhere else–and it’s quite frankly shameful that it’s taken me so long to start studying New Orleans history. They are also helping me with my first real foray into writing historical fiction; I did write “The Weight of a Feather,” which was set loosely in the early 1950’s, but “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” my attempt at writing in the Sherlock Holmes canon, is definitely taking me back into a time I am completely unfamiliar with; recreating the New Orleans of November, 1914 is going to be one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done–which makes it all the more exciting, quite frankly.

We watched another episode of Messiah last night, and I have to say, this show is incredible. I can’t recommend it enough. We’re three episodes in, and for me, one of the best indicators of how good a show is how easy it is to get lost in the story; that when the credits start rolling it comes as a shock because it doesn’t seem like you’ve been watching for an hour. That’s how every episode of Messiah has been so far; and as I’ve said before, there’s nothing quite so fascinating to me as religion and religious history. Given how evangelical Christianity is trying to turn our country into a theocracy, and has been for quite some time (the separation of church and state in this country has always been an ideal we never have quite reached), it’s always interesting to me to think about the return of Jesus as supposedly prophesied in the Bible (I’ve never been convinced that Revelations is anything other than the ravings of a madmen rather than actual prophecy–but all of the end times/Rapture stuff traces back to that particular book of the Bible; as well as to The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, a huge bestseller back in the 1970’s and, in my opinion, the beginning of all the Rapture/end times stuff; but that’s for another blog post after I reread the Lindsey book.) and how modern day evangelicals, with their Prosperity Gospel and other nonsense would react–a friend and I refer to the Jesus they worship as “Republican Armani Jesus,” or RAJ for short; that’s why Messiah is so interesting to me. It’s also remarkably well-done.

LSU’s football team arrived in New Orleans last night, which I watched on various social media feeds. It was kind of cool seeing how people lined up on the highway to hold up signs and flags and cheer for the team on their way to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, and there was a mob scene at the hotel on Canal Street when the busses finally pulled in. The route through Baton Rouge was also clogged with fans cheering them on–and you can actually feel the electricity in the air here yesterday. I put in an eight hour day at the office yesterday, and shockingly enough, despite the fact that I had to drive through the Quarter and the CBD at five thirty on a Friday night–the worst day and time for traffic of the week, plus the team was arriving around that time–it only took me a little over twenty minutes to navigate the crowded streets and traffic.

We do love our football teams down here in the bayou country.

Monday is going to be insane.

 But in the best kind of way, really.

Hmm, there’s a lull in the storm. It’s eerily still outside; no wind, no rain, and just really gray and weird. I don’t see our outdoor kitties–we have a new addition; an orange-and-white tuxedo kitty we’ve dubbed Simba. He’s really sweet, and he and Tiger seem to have a wary frenemy relationship. Simba is far too friendly and affectionate to be feral; I don’t know if he’s someone’s cat in the neighborhood that they let roam free, or if he belonged to the asshole college students next door who recently moved away and they left him behind–which really pisses me off. Simba’s ear is also not clipped, so at some point we’re going to need to catch him and take him in to see if he is chipped. I hope, if he is abandoned, he and Tiger are holed up safely under the house or somewhere out of this rain.

It would be so easy for me to become a crazy cat lady.

I think it’s about to start raining again; there was some severe thunder just now.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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He Can Put His Shoes Under My Bed Anytime

As Constant Reader might remember–or if you don’t, here’s the reminder–I’ve been tasked with writing a Sherlock Holmes short story. Being quite mercenary–I rarely turn down opportunities to make money–I of course said yes; I am not a Sherlockian by any means, but it was precisely this lack of knowledge regarding perhaps the greatest private detective in the history of crime fiction (along with the offer of payment) that also was part of my inspiration to respond to the querying email with a most enthusiastic yes, of course I would love tofor there is also nothing such as the combination of payment AND a challenge to my writing skill and ability that I will welcome most gratefully.

Which, of course, was immediately followed by what the fuck were you thinking?

Now, I read most of the Holmes stories when I was in junior high, and they never really took with me. I enjoyed them, don’t get me wrong, but I never became what I call a “Sherlockian”; an enormous fan who devours any and all Holmes-related materials, whether they were written by Doyle himself, or the pastiches/homages, or any of the scholarship. I’ve watched some of the films, yes, and enjoyed both Sherlock and Elementary, even though we gradually lost interest in the latter and stopped watching. I also read the Nicholas Meyer “new cases” published in the 1970’s, The Seven Per Cent Solution and The West End Horror (I believe he’s published yet another one, as well). And a few years ago I bought the definitive annotated Holmes two volume set on eBay. So I figured I could reread some of the original stories, ask some of my friends who are deep into Sherlockiana to help if I needed it (both said yes, because writers are often very kind and generous people–side-eye at Romance Writers of America), and then I remembered a story I meant to read for last year’s Short Story Project, “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness,” by Lyndsay Faye, which was a Sherlock Holmes story originally published in an anthology called Sherlock Holmes in America, and reprinted in The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, edited by Lee Child. I got the book down from the shelves yesterday and started reading.

My friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, while possessed of one of the most vigorous minds of our generation, and while capable of displaying tremendous feats of physical activity when the situation required it, could nevertheless remain in his armchair perfectly motionless longer than any human being I had ever encountered.  This skill passed entirely unnoticed by its owner. I do not believe he held any intentions to impress me so, nor do I think the exercise was, for him, a strenuous one. Still I maintain the belief that when a man has held the same pose for a period exceeding three hours, and when that man is undoubtedly awake, that same man has accomplished an unnatural feat.

I turned away from my task of organizing a set of old journals that lead-grey afternoon to observe Holmes perched with one-leg curled beneath him, firelight burnishing the edges of his dressing gown as he sat with his head in his hand, a long-abandoned book on the carpet. It was with a view to ascertain that my friend was still alive that I went so far against my habits as to interrupt his reverie.

Isn’t that a wonderful start? And very Doyle-ish, yet uniquely Lyndsay Faye’s style. Lyndsay is a dear friend–and one of the people who agreed to advise me on my story–and we’ve known each other for years. I first saw her at the first Edgar banquet I attended; she was a finalist for Best Novel for The Gods of Gotham, which was fantastic and you should read it–and again more recently for her novel Jane Steele. We later were both on a judging panel for the Edgar for Best Short Story and became friends; I later recruited her for the Mystery Writers of America board of directors, and we’ve been buds ever since.

The story is truly fantastic, and as I read it–it’s a reminiscent story, in which Watson recounts an old story to Holmes from his days traveling in the United States, and this story is set in San Francisco. Colonel Warburton was a war veteran of both the Mexican War and the Civil War who’d made a fortune and built himself a mansion in San Francisco. But now in his latter years he fears he is losing his mind, having flashbacks to his war days, and Watson never really quite figured out what was going on in the Warburton mansion–but in relating his story and observations, he delivers the missing piece to solve the puzzle to Holmes’ brilliant deductive mind.

And thus, I realized that my fears–ever-present, of course–of imposter syndrome and so forth, which had been swirling around in my head about writing this story, began to disappear. I also grabbed one of the annotated volumes and started reading another Holmes story–and the idea that I had, “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy”, began to take even better shape in my head…and I decided that today, as part of my writing, I would attempt to start writing the story. Which is very exciting, I might add.

Yesterday was a most productive day here in the Lost Apartment. I got a really good night’s sleep Froday night, and woke up aflame to get shit done yesterday. I cleaned, I organized, I filed, I did laundry, I cleaned the floors, I did the dishes and I read and I wrote and I did all kinds of things that made me feel quite accomplished by the time I plopped down in my easy chair to relax for the evening and watch television. Paul had gone into the office for the afternoon, and went out for the evening with friends, so I was pretty much alone all day yesterday and was able to accomplish a lot–not having an LSU football game to get stressed over was a big part of my getting so much done. The Saints are playing Minnesota today in the play-offs; I’m debating whether I should watch with my full attention, or stay here in the kitchen writing, checking in on the score periodically. I should, of course, stay in here writing. I need to get further along with Bury Me in Shadows, of course, and of course there’s the Sherlock story, and some website writing I agreed to do by a week from Monday.

So, on that note, I need to head back into the spice mines. I didn’t sleep as deeply last night as I did on Friday night, but it’s okay; I’m neither tired, nor exhausted; I actually feel rested if not completely awake this morning. Perhaps once I finish my second cup of coffee, and sort through my emails, I’ll be more awake.

So, it is off to the spice mines with me now, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Sunday!

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Land of Confusion

Wednesday, and my body clock  has apparently, finally, after all these years, adjusted back to getting up early the first two days of the week. This morning I woke up again around four, went back to sleep, woke up again around six, and then fell asleep again so that I could wake up just after eight feeling rested and refreshed. Which is cool and lovely, since today is a half-day for me and I can get sort of caught up on things around the Lost Apartment. The kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes, and there are two loads of laundry in some sort of the process of being laundered; the living room is a mess, and so forth. I can also run get the mail after work, and stop at the grocery store for a minor grocery run as well.

Pulling Bury Me in Shadows together is proceeding apace; by the end of this evening I hope to  have over half of it done, with the corrections and additions made that need to be made. This does put me right on schedule for turning it on Monday of next week, which is lovely. It feels good to be producing again, and of course, the whole “Moist Money” thing was really cool this week, too–that’s two short stories I’ve placed over the last few months, which is truly a lovely thing to contemplate. I put some more out for submission earlier this week, too, so hopefully there will be more good news in the future….

..or devastating confirmations of my imposter syndrome. We’ll see how it goes.

Yesterday Facebook memories reminded me that nine years ago was the day we brought Scooter home from the Cat Practice for a two week trial, to see whether we wanted to adopt him or not. He was home with us for exactly two hours before we decided he was a keeper, and went back the next morning to finalize the adoption. It’s so funny; over the years neither Paul nor I had ever had a cat; I’d had roommates with cats, but for the most part they were distant and aloof and rarely seen. Friends had cats, but we were both more dog people, and the sad truth is, we only acquired Skittle when we lived in the carriage house because we had a mouse. Owning Skittle turned us both into cat aficionados; whenever we visit anyone who has a cat, Paul will spend most of the night trying to befriend the cat. Skittle’s untimely demise from cancer was devastating to both of us; Paul was so torn up over it we weren’t sure we’d get another cat. But the Lost Apartment felt so empty without one…when I went back to the Cat Practice to pick up Skittle’s ashes, there was a cat up for adoption in one of the cages behind the front desk–an orange cat whose name was Texas. He was very sweet, and I told Paul that night about him, as Paul was already looking into getting another cat. “Why don’t you go down there and take a look at Texas?” I told him, and so Friday morning before work he walked down there and did, indeed, take a look at Texas. He emailed me when he got to his office and we decided I’d pick Paul up later that afternoon and we’d go get Texas for a trial. I remember letting him out of the carrier, and Scooter immediately, timidly his under the coffee table. He stayed there for a while, with Paul teasingly saying “now, if all you’re going to do is hide under the table we’re not going to keep you.” We turned on the television and started watching….and before long he came out, climbed up onto Paul’s chest, purring and cuddling, and we were his.

And have been, ever since. Nine lovely years. He’s such a sweet cat, too. I finally wrote him into the Scotty series–he’s Taylor’s cat, but Scotty and the boys are all wrapped around Scooter’s paws, the same way we are. It’s always lovely, you know, to come home from a day at work (especially on those shitty days) and have a cat climb into your lap, purring and wanting to cuddle and offering no-strings affection.

We got caught up with The Righteous Gemstones last night, which I am enjoying a lot more than I ever thought I would, and also started watching On Becoming a God in Central Florida–which I’m not so sure about whether we’ll continue watching. The first episode just made me feel incredibly sorry for the main characters, although I didn’t see the shocking death coming. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a comedy–perhaps a dark comedy?–or not, but it didn’t feel funny to me; I don’t like humor where poor people are the butt of the joke , and that’s how it seemed to me…I hate seeing even dark humor where the dreams of poor people to better themselves are mocked or belittled. I don’t care for that, because all I wind up doing is feeling sorry for them. I’ll probably give the show another episode or two, but if that’s all it’s going to be I don’t think we’ll finish watching–but Kirsten Dunst is terrific in the lead role.

I also finished reading “Murder in Basin Street” in Ready to Hang and am now onto the next famous murder, “Juliette and the Kind Doctor,” which seems like an almost perfect story to adapt into a fictional novel. As I read more and more New Orleans history, it’s astonishing to me how dark that history is; almost from the very beginning. I am definitely most likely going to wind up writing historical fiction about New Orleans at some point, I suspect; I see many hours in the archives at the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Williams Center, and the Tulane Louisiana Historical Research Association in my future. There’s just such a rich history to explore and dive headlong into….and as a history addict, I can get lost in such research for years.

Which reminds me, I have been asked to write a story for an interesting anthology; a book of Sherlock Holmes stories where the only requirement is that it can’t be set in England and Holmes/Watson cannot be English. My first thought on reading the email was I can’t write a Holmes story–I haven’t read Doyle since I was a kid and immediately thereafter, Oh, I can set the case in Storyville in the 1910’s and I can use that title I’ve been sitting on for years–“The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy!” 

Naturally, this made me very excited, and now I have to not only do some more research on the time period, but I need to go back and reread some Holmes stories, to get not only a feel for the character that isn’t influenced by either television series (Sherlock with Cumberbatch and Elementary), but it more Doyle-influenced. I’ve never been much of a Sherlockian; I did enjoy reading the stories when I was young, and I read the Nicholas Meyer pastiches in the 1970’s (The Seven Per Cent Solution and The West End Horror), but other than watching the TV series and the occasional film (Spielberg’s Young Sherlock Holmes and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr, which was really just Holmes as Tony Stark in the nineteenth century), my interest in Holmes and Doyle is fairly minimal. Will writing this story turn me into a Sherlockian? I’ve already recruited some of my avid Sherlockian friends to give me advice and perhaps read early versions, to see if I am getting it right.

And stranger things have happened.

And on that note, I’ve got some emails to answer. Back to the spice mines with me!

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